When we were planning the arrival of our second daughter last year, I had lot of concerns. Adjusting to life with two kids and moving were the two big worries that kept me up some nights — nursing was not one of those concerns; I felt like a pro in that department.
About two days into our first trip home to visit my parents in New Orleans, our then two-month-old decided she didn’t want to nurse anymore. It started with some fussiness during her feedings which I attributed to a fast flow issue we had been struggling with from the beginning. But after the second refusal of the day, I was not only extremely engorged, but worried we had a major problem on our hands.
After seven hours of her refusing to nurse, I gave in and pumped a bottle.
She gulped it down and then wanted more. I offered to nurse many more times that day only to be pushed away. The problem was that I was under so much stress that I couldn’t pump enough milk to feed her. We were about to close on our old home, which turned out to be a very sticky situation. I went to bed praying the next day would be different. But it wasn’t.
She was on a full nursing strike.
My dad has worked for the same company for over 43 years. He used to come home and talk about his union workers going on strike, parading around with signs at the entrance to the plant and trying to damage his car. After hearing him talk about strikes for so many years, I have a funny visual in my head of a baby holding up a sign with a bottle in her mouth.
It was like she was offended at the sight of the breast.
She would scream and push me away at the sound of my nursing bra closure. I called the breastfeeding hotline twice that day; I was given some good tips on how to coax her back to breastfeeding but, much to my dismay, she continued refusing. By the end of the second day, I knew she was really hungry and I was very discouraged. I looked into some hypoallergenic formulas that she could tolerate with her dairy and soy sensitivities, but they wouldn’t arrive in the mail for two days. I was afraid to try the store brands for fear that she would react to them.
I kept telling myself she would come back eventually, but she refused one feeding after another for five days. I was pumping every two hours in order to make enough milk, which meant my visits with friends and family were limited. My visions of long walks through Audubon Park and coffee dates with old friends quickly disappeared. I was so consumed with trying to feed her that I couldn’t think of anything else.
Looking back, I question my motives for persisting with breast milk rather than giving up. I feel certain that I was not caught up in the “mom guilt” that so many of us experience. I knew I could give her formula and I knew I would not feel badly about it if that was best for both of us. I knew no one would judge me. In fact, I felt certain they would reassure me that I tried my best. But, I also knew this was not the last struggle we would go through together as mom and daughter. I pictured her as a temperamental teenager who refused to sit at the dinner table or spend quality time with me. I pictured her going off to college and not wanting to come home on the weekends. I prayed that God would give me strength and patience rather than understanding — because that’s what we need most as moms.
Now that I have some mom experience under my belt, I have to find ways to talk myself down from stressful situations. The conversation in my head usually goes something like this:
Is this an emergency?
What’s the worst that could happen?
What will our life look like if that worst thing happens?
Will I still be a good parent?
As I went through that dialogue in my head with the nursing strike, I realized life wouldn’t be so bad. My daughter would be formula fed, either by the awful-smelling hypoallergenic formula from the pediatrician or a crazy expensive organic brand. She would grow up to be healthy and happy, never remembering how hard this week was for both of us. I would have a family who encouraged me and loved me no matter my decision. I was able to get through the week knowing everything would be OKAY.
The happy ending to my story is that I finally spoke with a professional who gave me some tips that actually worked! She started nursing again on the 6th day as if nothing happened, and to this day she is terrific eater.